No, my friend, Father Ferapont’s approach to Christianity is far too severe. I prefer Zosima’s approach. Ferapont worships a stern and demanding God, who tests us in this life in order to see if we deserve the next. But Zosima believes in a loving, forgiving God, who offers us a paradise here on earth, if only we learn to love one another. Heed Zosima’s words:
“Love one another… When [man] knows that he is …guilty before all people, on behalf of all and for all, for all human sins… only then will the goal of our unity be achieved. For you must know, my dear ones, that each of us is undoubtedly guilty on behalf of all and for all on earth, not only because of the common guilt of the world, but personally, each one of us, for all people and for each person on this earth. This knowledge is the crown of the monk’s path, and of every man’s path on earth… Do not be afraid of your sin… Love God’s people… Teach the Gospel to the people untiringly…” (163-164).
Perhaps this is the essence of Christian love, then: that we should bear the common guilt, together? And perhaps this is Ferapont’s mistake: fasting is an easy thing, compared to the demands of loving and forgiving our neighbors.